Matt Cowan's killer Holden HT Kingswood is a Magnuson-blown 427ci LS-powered heirloom
This article on Matt's HT Kingswood was originally published in Street Machine LSX Tuner #3 magazine
It’s not uncommon for us gearheads to think of cars as being part of our families, and Matt Cowan’s HT Holden has been part of his since the day his dad bought it brand new off the lot some 45 years ago.
The HT was Matt’s parents’ wedding car, and when he was born, he caught a lift home from hospital in it. The car faithfully served as the Cowan family truckster throughout Matt’s childhood, dropping him at school and towing their ski boat away on holidays.
In the ’80s it was hot-rodded at the skilful hands of Matt’s old man, with the 253, auto and poo-brown seats swapped out for an owner-built 308, M21 and Monaro buckets. The car was an ever-present part of Matt’s life, and he adored it.
“Dad paid about $3000 for it brand new back in the day, and he and mum called it the ‘White Hot Special’,” he says. “Many years later I came along and from the age of around five, I told Dad that this was ‘my car’."
Matt got the shock of his life when, on his 21st birthday, his Dad handed him a wooden box. “Inside it was the keys to the HT. Literally the next week, I put it in Dad’s shed and stripped it to a bare shell.”
And so started a ground-up rebuild that would take nine long years to complete; a steady process, governed as these things usually are by the availability of time and money. On the advice of a mate, the first thing Matt bought for the car was the wheels – Intro Vistas in 19x10in and 19x8in – and built the car around them.
Initial plans called for a big-cube Holden V8 on account of the raucous tone they produce, and Matt got as far as gathering parts and having a custom crank built before hearing of a Procharged 355ci small-block Chev that was up for grabs.
Meanwhile, the crew at Markos Bodyworks were getting stuck into the bodywork and fabrication, shaving the fuel filler, smoothing the engine bay, fitting a flat firewall, adding GTS guard flutes, mini-tubbing the rear end and enlarging the quarters to allow for the big wheels. Matt’s dad was an integral part of the planning process, and some big decisions – such as the colour – came down to his call. He opted for Alabaster Silver, and it suits the car’s lines beautifully.
Re-shaped Monaro seats and a reconditioned factory instrument cluster are accompanied by Auto Meter gauges, a B&M shifter, and an Intro Vista 5 billet steering wheel swinging off a custom spun-aluminium column
The interior design and re-trim was handled by Trims by Shaun, incorporating the Monaro seats that Matt’s old man had fitted years beforehand, but with a twist. “I always wanted bucket seats in the back and to do something a little bit different,” Matt explains. “Shaun reshaped the old Monaro bench seat into two buckets, and there’s speakers hidden behind the suede. I just wanted the interior to be classy; I didn’t want to overdo it and I don’t think the colours will date.”
With the ProCharged small-block fitted up the car was nearing completion, but that's when Matt’s dad, the car’s original owner and an absolute cornerstone of the build, fell ill. “I pushed really hard, but unfortunately he never got to see the car finished. I was gutted; it was a really hard time,” Matt admits.
The sheet metal in the engine bay is smooth as silk, and the Magnuson-blown 427ci LS looks an absolute treat
“Dad first took me to Summernats from when I was six or seven years old. He always told me that I was taking the car to the extreme, but he was very proud of what I was creating. So on the first anniversary of his passing we debuted the car at Summernats 24 with the ’plates FORDAD, and qualified for the Top 60. This was very emotional but also very special for my family, especially my Mum. She had never been to Summernats as it doesn’t really interest her, but I finally got her through the gate and she lit up when she saw the car on display in the hall. Even more special, we won an Elite Encouragement trophy, which made the day.”
After Summernats 24, Matt started driving the car and even did a bit of racing, but the blown small-block gave him more than its fair share of grief. “I always wanted something that was turn-key and easy to drive, so we went to the LS engine and Magnusson blower,” Matt says. It’s a Westend Performance-built 427ci screamer, backed by a toughened Powerglide trans. Based on a GM Performance Parts LSX block, the engine boasts a Callies crank and rods, JE pistons and a COMP Cams hydraulic-roller. Heads are ported with Jessel rockers, Lunati valve springs and Ferrea valves. The brains of the operation is a Holley ECU, and the brawn is of course the aforementioned Magnuson Heartbeat supercharger.
“Everyone said to go with E85, but I wanted to keep it simple so I could just fill up at the pump with unleaded,” Matt says. “Sam from Westend tried it on E85 and it made 900hp, but then retuned it on pump to 830hp. The thing screams!”
“These days I spend time enjoying the car with family and friends and driving it on the street as much as I can, especially with my daughter strapped in her car seat in the back," he continues. "I give it the odd hit up the highway and she just giggles and says, ‘Go faster Daddy’. Cute as!”
It’s pretty amazing that 45 years on, a third generation of the Cowan family is developing that same fondness for the HT, and it’s a safe bet that Matt’s old man would be proud as punch of what his ‘White Hot Special’ has become.
If Matt's name sounds familiar, you've probably heard it before in connection with the wild ONIT Holden LH Torana he owns with his mate Mark Siracusa. Packing a crazy blown, injected 511ci big-block, the car was built to smash tyres and is a two-time Summernats Tuff Street Champion.